Doctor Who and the Silurians

Doctor Who and the Silurians
052 – Doctor Who and the Silurians
Doctor Who serial
A Silurian
  • Nicholas CourtneyBrigadier Lethbridge-Stewart
  • Fulton Mackay — Dr Quinn
  • Peter Miles — Dr Lawrence
  • Ian Cunningham — Dr Meredith
  • Norman Jones — Major Baker
  • Thomasine Heiner — Miss Dawson
  • Ian Talbot — Travis
  • Geoffrey Palmer — Masters
  • John Newman — Spencer
  • Bill Mathews — Davis
  • Roy Branigan — Roberts
  • Gordon Richardson — Squire
  • Nancie Jackson — Doris Squire
  • Brendan Barry — Hospital Doctor
  • Paul Darrow — Captain Hawkins
  • Richard Steele — Sergeant Hart
  • Alan Mason — Corporal Nutting
  • Harry Swift — Private Robins
  • Derek Pollitt — Private Wright
  • Dave Carter — Old Silurian
  • Nigel Johns — Young Silurian
  • Pat Gorman — Silurian Scientist
  • Dave Carter, Pat Gorman, Paul Barton, Simon Cain, John Churchill — Silurians
  • Peter Halliday — Silurian Voices
Writer Malcolm Hulke
Director Timothy Combe
Script editor Terrance Dicks
Producer Barry Letts
Executive producer(s) None
Production code BBB
Series Season 7
Length 7 episodes, 25 minutes each
Originally broadcast January 31–March 14, 1970
← Preceded by Followed by →
Spearhead from Space The Ambassadors of Death

Doctor Who and the Silurians is a serial in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in seven weekly parts from January 31 to March 14, 1970. The story is the first appearance of a recurring family of Earth-dwelling reptiles. The title is sometimes reduced to the intended title The Silurians.



An experimental nuclear power research centre built into a network of caves in Wenley Moor is experiencing mysterious power drains and a high incidence of mental breakdowns. UNIT are called in to investigate, and the Third Doctor and Liz meet Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart at the plant. While exploring the caves, one of the workers at the centre was killed, with wounds that look like giant claw marks, and his companion's mind has been traumatised to the extent that he can only scrawl primitive cave drawings of reptilian creatures on the walls of the ward. Lawrence, the Director, resents UNIT's presence and feels that it will interfere with the working of the plant, which is trying a new process to convert nuclear energy directly into electric power. Off in a corner, Dr Quinn, the Deputy Director, argues with Miss Dawson, his assistant, when she protests that they should stop "them" from taking the power. Major Baker, the security chief, believes there is a saboteur in the centre, and the Doctor discovers that the logs of the nuclear reactor's operation have been tampered with. When the Doctor makes his way into the caves, he is attacked by a dinosaur-like creature.

The creature is called off by a strange whistling sound. The Brigadier decides to explore the caves with armed men. Baker fires at a humanoid figure he spots in the caves, and is attacked by the dinosaur-like creature, but it is again called off by the same sound. The Doctor returns to the centre with Baker, taking samples of the blood that was drawn when Baker fired at the humanoid. Examining the blood, the Doctor finds similarities to the "higher reptiles". In the meantime, the humanoid has reached the surface and stumbles into a barn to hide. Quinn goes into the caves to a hidden base, where he demands the knowledge he was promised. He is told that he must first see to the wounded humanoid and is given a signal device which emits the sound heard earlier.

The humanoid is discovered by a farmer and his wife, and attacks them. The farmer dies of a heart attack, but the wife survives and identifies her attacker. Liz, investigating the barn, turns to see a reptilian biped. She screams in fright, but the creature knocks her unconscious and flees.

When Liz awakens, she tells the Doctor and the Brigadier, and the latter orders a manhunt across the moor, just as Quinn arrives at the barn. Making an excuse, he leaves and summons the humanoid with his device. When the Brigadier and the Doctor discover the humanoid's tracks, they end in tyre marks.

The Doctor goes to Quinn's cottage, and notes that it is remarkably hot, like a reptile house. Quinn replies that the thermostat is broken. Quinn does not react well to the hints the Doctor is dropping or to his veiled attempts to get him to co-operate, and asks the Doctor to leave. Breaking into Quinn's office, the Doctor finds a globe that depicts the Earth's continents, as they were 200 million years ago, which the Doctor identifies as during the Silurian period. Back at the cottage, Miss Dawson tries to persuade Quinn to tell the Doctor everything, but Quinn is adamant that he will keep the wounded Silurian captive until he is given the advanced scientific knowledge he wants. Later, when the Doctor goes to the cottage to once again try to reason with Quinn, he finds the scientist dead in his chair. The Doctor retrieves the signal device from Quinn's body and is surprised by the Silurian, who is still there.

The Doctor attempts communication, only for the Silurian to run away. Baker, still convinced that the answer lies in the caves, overpowers the UNIT man guarding the sickbay and enters them by himself. He is soon captured by the Silurians and interrogated as to the capabilities of the humans. The Doctor and Liz explore the caves following Baker's route and open the entrance to the Silurian base with Quinn's signal device, where they find Baker in a locked cage. He tells them that they must warn the surface. The Doctor and Liz leave undiscovered, but not before they see a Silurian being revived from hibernation by a machine, explaining the energy drains that the reactor has been experiencing. Meanwhile, Masters, the Permanent Under-Secretary in charge of the centre, arrives for a personal inspection, and Lawrence complains to him about UNIT's interference. The Doctor decides to tell them all about the Silurians in the caves, urging a peaceful contact instead of the Brigadier's proposed armed expedition. However, this falls on deaf ears when Miss Dawson reveals that Quinn was killed by the Silurian he held captive. The Doctor goes to warn and reason with the Silurians, but they put him in a cage. Then when The Doctor tries to reason with the younger one, it attacks him psychically using its third eye.

The older Silurian puts a stop to it. The older Silurian tells the Doctor how their race retreated underground when they saw the Moon approaching Earth millions of years before. The hibernation mechanism malfunctioned, and they did not revive until a new power source — the nuclear reactor — was discovered. The Doctor manages to persuade the older Silurian to release the Brigadier and his men, but the younger Silurian orders Baker infected with a virus before he is released. When the older Silurian discovers this, he releases the Doctor, giving him a canister of the virus so he can discover a cure. The younger Silurian kills the older one for this act. The Doctor reaches the centre, and he warns everyone to stay away from Baker, who collapses with the virus. Masters, however, decides to return to London, unaware that he has also been infected. Baker is taken to a local hospital without the Doctor's knowledge and dies there. "The first one." The Doctor grimly notes.

The Brigadier holds Baker's doctor and nurse at gunpoint to prevent them from leaving and spreading the virus while the Doctor returns to the centre to work on the cure. The Brigadier and Liz try to warn London, while all of the centre's staff are inoculated with a stopgap vaccine. All, that is, except for Lawrence, who refuses. Masters, in the meantime, has reached London and eludes the search parties desperately looking for him. The virus begins to spread and the deaths begin. The infection even reaches France. Doctor Lawrence, who eventually dies from the virus, complains in his last moments that the affair has ruined his career. The young Silurian decides the Doctor must be killed before he finds a cure. The Doctor has indeed found one, and as he writes down the formula, the Silurians attack the centre and stun him with their third eyes, taking him away.

Liz, however, discovers the formula and it is soon being mass-produced and distributed. The Silurians have a back-up plan, however. They intend to use a weapon to destroy the Van Allen Belt and make the Earth's environment hostile to humankind, and will force the Doctor to connect the reactor to provide power to the weapon. UNIT troops are lured into the caves and commence a battle with the Silurians while the younger Silurian takes the Doctor to the reactor control room along with Liz and the Brigadier. The Doctor, however, overloads the reactor and tells the younger Silurian that the area will be irradiated for at least 25 years. The Silurians disengage from the battle with UNIT and re-enter the caves to hibernate until the danger has passed. Since the mechanism is faulty, the younger Silurian will stay awake to operate it and sacrifice his life, while the new leader of the Silurians having orders to return to the area in 50 years and exterminate Humanity as the colony's first order of business. The Doctor and Liz, meanwhile, repair the reactor, and go to the underground base, where the younger Silurian realises he has been duped into sending his race back to sleep. He attacks the Doctor in a rage, but is killed by the Brigadier.

Later, on Wenley Moor, the Doctor tells Liz that he proposes to revive the Silurians one by one and try to reach a peaceful compromise between them and humanity. However, the Brigadier has other orders, and the Silurian base is blown up. The Doctor is horrified at this act of genocide, but Liz guesses that the Brigadier was acting on orders of his superiors, who obviously did not want to take the chance of this alien and openly hostile power threatening Humanity again. The Doctor, still disgusted, drives off.


  • This story marks the first appearance of the Doctor's yellow vintage car, Bessie.
  • The Doctor remarks in this episode, "You know, I'm beginning to lose confidence for the first time in my life — and that covers several thousand years." This comment adds to the many conflicting ages for the Doctor provided in the television series over the years.

Homo reptilia

  • The term "Silurian" is never actually used by the creatures themselves; only by humans and the Doctor. Its use resulted in many letters from scientists and geologists who argued that it was impossible for a reptilian lifeform to have existed in the Silurian period. In the later The Sea Devils, the Doctor admits that the name "Silurian" is inaccurate and states they should more properly be called "Eocenes", again an unlikely candidate for the creatures' own era. Both names are mentioned in "The Hungry Earth", along with the more generalised - though far more obviously inaccurate - "Homo reptilia". The Virgin New Adventures, beginning with Love and War refer to the creatures as Earth Reptiles for the most part. Ben Aaronovitch's The Also People calls them Indigenous Terrans.
  • The Sea Devils, the aquatic cousins of the Silurians, would appear in The Sea Devils (1972). The Sea Devils and the Silurians return in Warriors of the Deep (1984). In Warriors of the Deep both they and the Sea Devils use "Silurian" to refer to themselves.


Serial details by episode
Episode Broadcast date Run time Viewership
(in millions)
"Episode 1" 31 January 1970 (1970-01-31) 24:15 8.8 PAL colour restoration
"Episode 2" 7 February 1970 (1970-02-07) 23:08 7.3 PAL colour restoration
"Episode 3" 14 February 1970 (1970-02-14) 23:16 7.5 PAL colour restoration
"Episode 4" 21 February 1970 (1970-02-21) 25:00 8.2 PAL colour restoration
"Episode 5" 28 February 1970 (1970-02-28) 23:58 7.5 PAL colour restoration
"Episode 6" 7 March 1970 (1970-03-07) 24:15 7.2 PAL colour restoration
"Episode 7" 14 March 1970 (1970-03-14) 22:55 7.5 PAL colour restoration
  • After the previous story, producer Derrick Sherwin was transferred to the television series Paul Temple, and the BBC intended for Barry Letts to become producer. However, Letts was committed to another production, and could not be released until after the location work on Silurians was completed. Script editor Terrance Dicks and his assistant Trevor Ray shared the production responsibilities for the location work.
  • The incidental music for the serial was composed by Carey Blyton, who would also contribute music for Death to the Daleks (1974) and Revenge of the Cybermen (1975).
  • This story is the first to be recorded using colour studio cameras. The previous serial, Spearhead from Space, was the first in colour, but was shot entirely on location (i.e., outside the electronic TV studio), and on film (as opposed to videotape, the standard method for recording Doctor Who). Due to the move to colour, the production team made use of a technique known as Chromakey (or sometimes CSO), which allowed images to be superimposed over each other using colour separation. This was used extensively in the series for many years, beginning with this serial.
  • Whilst working on Bessie, the Doctor sings a rendition of "Jabberwocky".
  • Location filming took place at Marylebone Station in London on 12 November 1969, but after the prints were damaged, the scenes were reshot on 24 November after the rest of the serial had been finished. Other location work was undertaken in Surrey, with the heathland scenes filmed at Hankley Common.[3]

Alternative titles

This was also the only time the name "Doctor Who" was used in the title of a serial on-screen (although Episode 5 of The Chase was titled "The Death of Doctor Who" on-screen). Although it was common in production paperwork to prefix "Doctor Who and..." to the story title at the time, the prefix was usually dropped when the director ordered the titles from the captioning department for transmission. However, this was not done for this particular story.

The reasons why this happened are not entirely clear. Director Timothy Combe states that he was presented with a story called Doctor Who and the Silurians and that it was always intended that the serial go out with that name. However, as Doctor Who historian Andrew Pixley points out, this was Combe's first serial as a full director and there was effectively no producer at this time, as noted above. In addition, the rehearsal scripts for the serial simply have The Silurians as the title. Pixley theorises that Combe was unaware of the standard production practice and gave the order to the captioning department for the "proper" title, as he believed it to be at the time.

Whichever the case, production paperwork from this point on stopped the practice of adding the prefix, perhaps as a measure to prevent the "mistake" from happening again.[4]

Cast notes

In print

A novelisation of this serial, written by Malcolm Hulke, was published by Target Books in January 1974 under the title Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters. In this adaptation, the Silurians were given names like Morka, Okdel and K'to. The novelisation gives extensive background to the reptile culture, including a prologue featuring their hibernation beginning. Large parts of the novelisation are told from the reptiles' point of view and there is an extensive back-story given to several characters including Quinn and Major Baker (for some reason, the character is called Major Barker in the novelisation). The novelisation avoids referring to the reptiles as Silurians (the word turns up as a UNIT password) but identifies the dinosaur in the caves as a tyrannosaurus rex. The novelisation was also translated into Dutch, Finnish, Japanese and Portuguese. An unabridged reading of the novelisation by actress Caroline John was released on CD in September 2007 by BBC Audiobooks.

Doctor Who book
Book cover
Doctor Who and the Cave-Monsters
Series Target novelisations
Release number 9
Writer Malcolm Hulke
Publisher Target Books
Cover artist Chris Achilleos
ISBN 0-426-10292-4
Release date 17 January 1974
Preceded by '
Followed by '

VHS, CD and DVD releases

  • The original 625-line PAL videotapes of the serial were wiped by the BBC for reuse, although they retained 16mm b/w film recordings. In 1993, the colour signal from a 525-line NTSC version of all seven episodes (except for part of the beginning of episode four) was used, along with traditional colourisation techniques, to colourise the film prints for the VHS release, which was in July of that year.
  • In October 2006, the story's original soundtrack was released on CD as part of the 'Monsters on Earth' tin set, again alongside The Sea Devils and Warriors of the Deep, with linking narration from Caroline John.[5] The CD was then individually re-issued in January 2008.
  • On January 14, 2008, a fresh restoration of the story (the black and white prints and off-air colour recordings were mixed together, with the colour prints distorted to reduce fringing and both prints were VID-FIRED'd to restore originally video sections to 50 frames each second rather than 24 frames each second) was released on DVD as part of boxed set called "Beneath the Surface" with The Sea Devils and Warriors of the Deep.


  1. ^ Siegel, Michael H.. "Doctor Who and the Silurians". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 2008-08-31. 
  2. ^ Sullivan, Shannon (2008-05-21). "The Silurians". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 2008-08-31. 
  3. ^ "Now and Then" BBC DVD documentary, 2008
  4. ^ Andrew Pixley (2006-06-30). "Re: The Doctor Who Serial Titles Debate". Outpost Gallifrey (registration required). Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2006-12-19. 
  5. ^

External links


Target novelisation

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